Innovation laboratory for work, people and technology opens at Fraunhofer Campus in Stuttgart
Feb 2, 2017
What is work becoming? In what directions is it developing? How can we best harness the potential of new technologies for our work? As digitalization transforms processes and services as well as factory floors, many new questions arise. The Future Work Lab, which was officially opened today, offers answers and innovative approaches to these issues. Attending the opening were Prof. Johanna Wanka, German Federal Minister of Education and Research, the Fraunhofer Executive Board, the institute directors and some 150 distinguished guests from the worlds of politics, research and business. In the innovation laboratory for work, people and technology, the Fraunhofer Institutes IAO and IPA and the University of Stuttgart Institutes IAT and IFF pool their expertise in the area of Industrie 4.0.
“We want to shape the transition to Industrie 4.0 by contributing new ideas based on our conception of good work. The Future Work Lab is an ideal place to do this. We need a public dialog between the public, politics, science and business about this fundamental transformation in the world of work. For this reason, my ministry is planning to make ‘The Future of Work’ the focus of Science Year 2018,” said Federal Research Minister Prof. Johanna Wanka at the opening event. “Germany managed to bend the previous waves of industrialization to the welfare of all. I’m confident that we’ll succeed in doing the same with the digital transformation. A decisive factor here is the need to combine technological and social innovations at an early stage in our research policy.”
“Via the next industrial revolution – Industrie 4.0 – the physical and the digital world are increasingly fusing together. New value chains and worlds of work are emerging along with a host of opportunities for companies and their employees,” emphasized Prof. Reimund Neugebauer, president of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. “Fraunhofer is driving these changes forward with key innovations such as 5G, machine learning, cognitive systems, greater resource efficiency, safe human-robot collaboration and the sovereignty of sensitive personal and business data. In the Future Work Lab, we are working together with the University of Stuttgart to show what industrial work could look like in the future, what this means for people, and how new technologies can be implemented in practice. In this way, we actively contribute to the successful further development of Germany as an industrial location.”
As representatives of the social partners, Jörg Hofmann, president of the IG Metall union, and Dr. Stefan Wolf, president of the Südwestmetall employers’ federation, were invited to give opening addresses. Both men highlighted the importance of the Future Work Lab in helping steer developments in the working world of tomorrow. The union and the employers actively support the Future Work Lab, as insights into how new technologies impact on work concepts offer vast potential both to employees and businesses – and specifically SMEs – seeking to effect a positive digital transition.
Industrial work of the future
Industrial work is changing. Digitalization and the intelligent networking of people, machines and objects are coming to knowledge work, manufacturing work, services and the interfaces of all these. As a response to this development, socio-technical work systems are also changing, as are work organization and design. There is a growing need for flexibility and mobility. New forms or work organization are already emerging when it comes to the division of work. For example, shift workers can coordinate with each other at short notice via smartphone, as demonstrated by Fraunhofer IAO’s “KapaflexCy” project, which has already been implemented. Moreover, companies are seeking new ways both of training and qualifying their employees for the digital workplace, and of fully harnessing the potential of new technologies. New technologies not only offer the opportunity to manufacture faster and better and with greater motivation, they also often bring disruptive innovations and completely new business models with them. Only businesses that systematically address their innovation processes and anchor them within the company’s overall strategy are capable of surviving and thriving in this dynamic market environment over the long term.
“This is precisely where our innovation laboratory, the Future Work Lab, comes in,” says Prof. Wilhelm Bauer, executive director of Fraunhofer IAOr. “Work is changing; it’s becoming faster, more dynamic and more flexible. This produces new forms of human-machine interaction. In our innovation laboratory, we want to show people this transformation process using specific demonstrators, so that they can experience the upcoming change now.”
The Future Work Lab, an innovation laboratory for work, people and technology, originated under the direction of Fraunhofer IAO on the Fraunhofer Campus in Stuttgart-Vaihingen. In May 2017, it will move to the nearby ARENA2036 research campus. In the laboratory, the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA, and the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT and Institute of Industrial Manufacturing and Management IFF pool their expertise in the area of Industrie 4.0.
“The Future Work Lab sees itself as a generator of ideas about what the work of the future can look like in companies,” summarizes Prof. Thomas Bauernhansl, director of Fraunhofer IPA,. “Through our demonstrators, manufacturing companies and their employees can experience the industrial work of the future live and explore how the digital transformation will change work.”
Future Work Lab services and offers
With hands-on demonstrators, offers for skills development and further training, and a platform for scientific exchange, the Future Work Lab is targeted at industry, trade unions, politics and science – and very much at the production workers of today and tomorrow. They can all use the services of the Future Work Lab in three ways, which were presented during lab tours at the opening:
- At the Demonstration Center, three circuits illustrating the future of work show technologies and applications that are already available today. Future scenarios such as the “Stuttgart Exo Jacket,” an exoskeleton for lifting jobs and overhead work, demonstrate a new possible division of work between people and technology. Further demonstrators include a completely wireless workplace, an app for shift planning and sample applications for augmented reality goggles. In this way, the initiators want to showcase the entire bandwidth of the industrial work of the future. At the same time, the Demonstration Center gives companies the opportunity to enter into contact with potential partners in order to benefit from their experience.
- As the future world of work will demand different skills from today, the Expertise Development and Consulting Center offers the “Fit for Future Work” world of learning program, which features seminars, workshops and further training courses for employees of manufacturing companies. Here, the center’s experts work with partnering companies to develop targeted individual training concepts for Industrie 4.0.
- The academically oriented “Work in Progress” Ideas Center for Work Research offers a central platform for scientific dialog and further research on the industrial work of the future. Its location directly within the Future Work Lab ensures the project partners a swift transfer from theory to practice.